The Iranian football team refused to sing its country’s national anthem prior to the 2022 Fifa World Cup match with England on Monday. As the anthem played out at Khalifa International Stadium, players stood in silence in solidarity with the protests back home that sparked following the tragic death of 22-year Mahsa Amini in Iranian police custody. These protests have been met with a violent state crackdown with human rights activist HRANA news agency saying that 344 people have been killed and 15,280 arrested over the last two months by Iran’s security forces.
In the audience, people were seen cheering with the movement’s adopted slogan, “Woman, Life, Freedom” with some holding up signs and flags with the same words, while others booed the anthem. An Iranian fan at the World Cup spoke to Reuters asking not to be identified and said, “All of us are sad because our people are being killed in Iran but all of us are proud of our team because they did not sing the national anthem – because it’s not our national (anthem), it’s only for the regime.” The Iranian national anthem, ‘Sorude Melliye Jomhuriye Eslâmiye Irân’ was adopted in 1990 following the death of Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini, and replacing the one under his rule.
While the team players have made limited public comments about the protests, ahead of the tournament, manager Carlos Queiroz stated that players would be allowed to protest within regulations while they competed in Qatar. In a pre-match press conference, team captain Ehsan Hajsafi offered condolences to the families of those killed. “I would like them to know that we are by their side and we feel their pain,” he said.